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More on 2002 Wheel Dimensions

wheel dimensions

More useful wheel  dimension information for 2002s.

I just discovered that the set of lightly used 13 x 6 rims I have left for sale consist of two with 9mm offset, and two with zero offset.  After I made this discovery I Googled a bit more and came up with this very informative link from Ireland Engineering

That’s only slightly less than 3/8″ difference. Under normal circumstances there should wheel dimensionsbe noticeable issues, but if you wanted to make them equal you could do so by using 1/4″ spacers in the zero offset wheels to make them equal.

The stock steel wheels were 13 x 5, and the extra inch of width needs to be distributed on the from so as to keep the steering pivot point the same distance from the tire contact patch. That’s a factor called scrub radius. The 9mm offset is designed to compensate for the change in scrub radius caused by increasing the contact patch area.

14 x 6 Wheels from early M3s:

Also interesting is that you can use the 14×6 wheels from 1984 to 91 M3s on a 2002 with 195.60 tires without having to modify any body work. I might consider trying that on the 76 2002.

wheel dimensions

Automobile Wheel Facts

wheels facts

Automobile Wheel Facts Summarized Part 1

If you’re looking for a set of aftermarket wheels  it’s a good idea to get your wheel facts straight before taking the action of buying and installing them.  I am by no means an authority on wheels or technology, but I felt it might be useful to some who might be shopping for street or race wheels to assemble into a few shorts articles some basic facts about competition wheels and the associated terminology.

Recently I acquired a few sets of Panasport racing wheels as a part my own race car re-acquisition.  These Panasports had all been purchased for use on a BMW 2002 race car that I had actually previously owned, and have now purchased back again.  I sold the car to my now late friend, George Barbour about 15 years ago. just before I moved away from Columbus.

George was a close personal friend who was also often my racing companion, and  who  helped me to prepare the car for 2002 in SCCA events while i owned it. I  raced it in ITC and later in E Production from 1993 until 1999.  George had most recently been preparing the car for GT-3 after I sold it to him.

The bottom line is that I am now purchasing the car back from George’s family estate.  My purchase package included several sets of Panasport UL wheels in various 13 inch and 15 inch sizes, many of which I now have no need.  I intend to run 15 inch the wheels to which George had already converted, and to finish the conversion to 4 wheel disc brakes.

Broadening the Potential Buyer List

wheels factsIf I hoped to come into contact with a wide audience of prospective buyers for these extra and unnecessary (but extremely high quality) wheels, I knew I was going to have to become informed about potential applications other than for a BMW 2002.

The 15 x 7s with zero offset were chosen for the 2002 on the basis of a calculated desired track width, taking scrub radius into account, and considering the necessity for proper wheel profile  to accommodate larger rotors and calipers behind the mounting surface.  On the front of the car this meant a consideration for larger than stock rotors and calipers, while on the rear of the car it means accommodation for rotors, period.  The 1600s and 2002s all used rear drum brakes, the 2002 version being a slightly larger diameter than those on used on the 1600.  George ast ran the car with the 2002 sized drum brakes, and i have not yet done the rear conversion to discs.

The taller hub height of 15 inch wheels also provides plenty of margin to prevent interference between the rim and the control arms/tie rod ends on the front of the car, but I have no idea how much room the rotors and caliper are going to take up in the rear yet.  It looks like a safe bet I will stick with the 15 x 7s,  but I cannot yet be entirely certain.

15 x 7 Panasports:  BMW 2002, Mazda Miata, and What Else?wheels facts

To expand my potential audience beyond the BMW, first I simply Googled  Mazda Miata wheel applications because I knew that I had seen 15 x 7 Panasports on Miatas.  They have the right 4 x100 bolt pattern, but because I do not know Miatas, I have no idea whether the zero offset is a workable option for a Miata.

So, is anyone looking for some attractive Miata wheels?

Searching online for Miata wheels, I found that many sets of 15 x 7 are sold for Miataswith 25 mm positive offset.   The offset requirements for a Miata are going to be a function of where the geometric pivot point for the steering arc is, as well as clearance issues.  Perhaps an informed Miata enthusiast might be willing to comment here on whether or not a zero offset 15 x 7 is okay for use on a Miata.  pacers are a potential solution, but in my opinion are they are a bad idea due to their tendency to cause lug bolts or lug nuts to work loose.

Wheel Fitment Issues for Brake Upgrades

If you have a stock brake setup and just want to change to a larger than stock wheel and you do not care to make the effort to measure to ensure a correct fit, then I would suggest taking the advice of those who have done so for you already.  Most of the major wheel retailers online can provide you with reliable information on up-sizing your wheels with standard brakes in place.  They don’t like to handle returns, so they have done their homework accordingly.

But how do you choose a wheel that’s compatible with your brake upgrade?  The only answer is either to measure it all up after your brake conversion is complete, or to believe someone else who had already measured for your choice of brake components.. If you are changing brake components from stock at all, there will be a possibility that you cannot retain the stock wheels.

Modify your braking system first, and then find suitable wheels to match your brake modifications, never the other way around!  Moving your brake components around to match the set of wheels you happen to have on hand is always a bad idea, and may end up compromising some element of your braking upgrade.  It;s a band-aid solution. Finding the right wheels is an easier, safer solution to solving an unintended brake interference problem caused by a change in brake component size and location.

Having the right rim profile behind the hub center (because that’s where the calipers will reside) is critical for preventing caliper interference issues.

Caliper locations sometimes must migrate outwards whenever larger, thicker rotors are installed.  Bigger brake setups mean both more powerful calipers and larger and thicker rotors.  The profile of the wheel inside of the mounting surface must not only be capable of accommodating the larger diameter rotor, they must also be able to accommodate the extra rotor thickness..

Street Brake Upgrades

Picture a thicker rotor mounted in exactly the same location as the stock rotor with respect to the hub.  A thicker rotor means that the rotor hub will be a little bit shallower than it was with the stock rotor.  Well designed street oriented brake upgrade systems take this into account and generally will allow the upgrade without creating a need for changing wheels.

Race Brake Upgrades

With more radical braking upgrades such as those applied to race cars, there is generally less concern about retaining stock wheels.  I think that most readers should be capable of translating these words into a pictorial concept by examining the drawing below, which I robbed from another website.

wheel facts

With a thicker rotor installed, caliper brackets may put the caliper closer to the wheel center than it previously was, not to mention the possibility that the caliper itself may also be bigger.  Both factors might cause wheel to caliper interference.  I believe the best approach to solving these problems to be a scientific one backed up by actual measurements.  You just have to measure, think it all out, and make yourself a drawing of the size of wheel needed to accommodate the brakes you are dealing with.

I plan to document this with a practical example in a later blog post, which may be more useful to many readers looking for specifics.  If you’re a good logical thinker, you can figure this all out based on the outline provided here without a specific example, but I promise to eventually provide my own example.

Of course you could always estimate by eyeballing things and using the trial and error methods.  Many people do this and get away with it.  Personally I like knowing, at least theoretically, how much clearance there actually is going to be between the wheel and the caliper, and being absolutely sure that the wheel is not going to interfere with any other suspension or steering components.

Wheel Terminology – Offsets

When you begin reaching wheel upgrades, it is vital to have a clear grasp what of exactly what is meant by each of the terms that are so freely thrown around.

wheel facts

The wheel offset and the backspace measurement are really the same thing, seen from two perspectives.  Wheel offset refers to the location of the wheel mounting plane with respect to the center if the wheel. The following diagrams which I stole from the Tire Rack’s website make that clear.  Potential dyslexic thinkers may still however become confused!  I had to think this through several times when I wrote it, to be sure i was not explaining it backwards!  In fact, the first time I published this post, I DID explain it backwards.  Fortunately, nobody really noticed it before i corrected it!  Truthfully, writing this post really helped me to firm up my own perceptions of offset and backspacing.

The picture in the center depicts a zero offset wheel.  The mounting plane of the wheel is in the center of the rim.  That’s easy enough!

A positive offset moves the wheel mounting plane closer to the outer surface of the wheel.  So, when you match the mounting plane of the wheel to the hub, the outer edge plane of the wheel is spaced closer to the center of the car by the amount of the offset. | That means that a positive offset has the effect of decreasing the overall track, and that both wheels set further closer to the center of the car by the value of the positive offset.

Think of it like this:  You have to push the wheel further towards the center of the car when you put it on before the mounting surface meets the hub. The positive offset moves the wheel surfaces closer to the center of the car, and thus farther from the inside surface of the fender.

A negative offset moves the wheel mounting plane of the wheel from the center of the wheel to a point closer to the inside surface of the wheel. So, when you match the mounting plane of the wheel to the hub, the outer edge plane of the wheel is spaced farther from the center of the car by the amount of the negative offset.

That means that a negative offset has the effect of increasing the overall track, and that both wheels set farther from the center of the car by the value of the negative offset.  The negative offset moves the outer edge plane of the wheel surface closer to the inside surface of the fender, and  further from the center line of the car.

Think of it like this:  You do not have to push the wheel very far towards the towards the center of the car  before mounting surface meets the hub. That means the track is going to be wider than it was without an offset.  It’s easy to remember when you picture what are called “deep dish” wheels.

wheel facts

Be aware also that if you add width to a wheel but retain the same offset, then the extra width gets added 50/50 between inside and outside.  That will often cause a problem with either inside or outside interference with something.  Whether or not your car needs positive or negative offset to compensate for clearance problems caused by increasing the width, depends upon whether the potential interference is inboard, or if you are dealing fender well clearance issues. Not to mention handling problems caused by accidentally increasing the scrub radius.

Scrub Radius – Click here for a clearer graphical explanation

Not to confuse things too much, but the choice of correct wheel offset with respect to additional wheel width is also tied to controlling an important geometric steering factor called scrub radius.  Scrub radius is essentially the distance between the pivot point of a wheel when it is being swept through its steering range, to the center f the tire contact patch.  Ideally, the contact patch center and the point about which a wheel rotates through its steering range should be as close as possible.  Choice of the wrong offset and/or the addition of wheel spacers on the front of a car can upset the scrub radius. Scrub radius is a subject for yet a whole different discussion.

Choose wheel offsets that do not contribute to increasing the scrub radius.  A rule of thumb for scrub radius is:

If you are not moving the steering pivot point around, then do not move the center of the contact patch.  If you DO move the pivot point around, be sure the wheel contact patch location follows it.  .


I hope not!  I know i still was when i started writing this!  All of the explanations I found online provided nice pictures, and then leave it up to the reader to figure it out in terms if what I just wrote down.  Some of the wording I found was true enough, but really not helpful in terms of explaining the big picture.  So I hope my words  helps to dispel rather than contribute to any confusion you may have entertained about wheel offsets.

For instance, here is a confusing set of words I found that is really saying the same thing, but in my mind it is stated ass backwards:

Most car makers set the center line of the wheel in from the hub face, inwards is called POSITIVE OFFSET, and outwards is called NEGATIVE OFFSET.”

These words describe moving an imaginary surface around, namely the center line of the wheel.  My mind most easily relates to moving around an actual and definable surface, which in my mind is the actual mounting plane of the wheel on the hub surface.  So I would re-write this explanation in terms I believe the average reader can better identify with:

“Most car makers set the mounting plane of the wheel (the hub surface),  in front of the center line of the rim, viewing the wheel from the outside of the car.  This is positive offset.

Setting the mounting plane of the wheel (the hub surface) behind the center line of the rim, when viewing the wheel from the outside of the car, is called negative offset.”

That says the same thing, and now having expressed it both ways and looking at the pictures, you should have a much clearer picture in your head.  If you were still confused, I hope that did it for you!

Backspace – the inverse of offset

The backspace is the distance from the hub mounting surface, the mounting surface of the wheel, to the inside edge of the wheel.

Stated another way:  Rim width minus the absolute value of the offset equals backspace.  I added the words “absolute value” because its possible you are dealing with a negative offset wheel.  Look at the pictures above if that is confusing.  A negative offset wheel will have a smaller backspace measurement than will a positive offset wheel.  Wheel spacers always have the same effect as would decreasing the offset.  Likewise, the removal of wheel spacers increases the effective offset.

I sure do hope I didn’t make any mistakes in my logical analysis of offsets!

In the next post I will discuss other vital but perhaps more general and less confusing wheel facts.

Panasport Racing Wheels for Sale

panasport wheels

Panasport Wheels for Sale,  New in Boxes


Panasport wheels are among the most sought after aftermarket brands.  If you’re looking for Panasport wheels for sale, I have a few sets of never- used and brand new wheels, as well as a few wheels that have had tires mounted and have been used only one or two weekends.

I’m selling them at quite affordable prices.  See summary below.

  I recently re-acquired a BMW 2002 race car package (previously my own car and I now have it back again), and the purchase package included many parts and accessories I really have no need of. I don’t need this many extra wheels!


Be sure also to Like my new Facebook page:

Panasport 15×7

I have two extra sets of brand new Panasport 15×7 racing wheels.  The most common applications include MGB,  Miata and 240Z, and as in my case,  BMW 2002 and other BMW racing applications.

The Panasport 15×7 specs are:

4×100 bolt pattern

2 ¼ inch center zero offset

Steel valve stems installed.

Asking Price:  $995 per set.

These wheels presently retail for $325 each.


Panasport 13×6

I run wheels just like these on my own 1976 BMW 2002 street car.  These extra 13 inchpanasport wheels wheels were all ordered before a decision was made to convert the 2002 race car to 15 inch wheels.

So I have two extra sets still in their boxes.  I also have a few slightly used ones (I don’t have an exact count right now) that I might consider selling at a lower price.  Make me an offer on the slightly used ones

The Panasport 13×6 specs are:

4×100 bolt pattern

2 ¼ inch center

9 mm offset

steel valve stems installed

Asking price:  $795 per set.

These wheels currently retail for  $290.


Panasport 13×7

panasport wheelsAgain these extra 13 inch wheels were all ordered before a decision was made to convert the 2002 race car to 15 inch wheels.

So I have two extra sets still in their boxes.  I also have a few slightly used ones (I don’t have an exact count right now) that I might consider selling at a lower price.  Make me an offer on the slightl;y used ones.

The Panasport 13×7 specs are:

4×100 bolt pattern

2 ¼ inch center

3 mm offset

steel valve stems installed

Asking price:  Also $795 per set. (I have only one set)

The 13×6 and 13×7 wheels are priced about the same MSLP, right now at $290.


Other Brands

I also have some odds and ends in other brands of racing wheels available, as well as a ton of 4×100 mm bolt pattern steel wheels Once again,

If you have any interest at all in purchasing these wheels, please send me an email at

Panasport Wheels for Sale

panasport wheels

Panasport Wheels for Racing Applications for Sale

If you have any interest at all in purchasing these wheels, please send me an email at

Panasport wheels are among the most sought after aftermarket wheels.  If you’re looking for Panasport wheels for sale, I have a few sets of never- used and brand new wheels, as well as a few wheels that have had tires mounted and have been used only one or two weekends.

I’m selling them at quite affordable prices. 

I recently re-acquired a BMW 2002 race car package (previously my own car and I now have it back again), and the purchase package included many parts and accessories I really have no need of.  I don’t need this many extra wheels!

 Be sure also to Like my new Facebook page:

 Panasport 15×7

I have two extra sets of brand new Panasport 15×7 racing wheels.  The most common applications include MGB,  Miata and 240Z, and as in my case,  BMW 2002 and other BMW racing applications.

The Panasport 15×7 specs are:

4×100 bolt pattern
2 ¼ inch center
zero offset
Steel valve stems installed.

Asking Price:  $995 per set.

These wheels presently retail for $325 each.

Panasport 13×6

I run wheels just like these on my own 1976 BMW 2002 street car.  These extra 13 inchpanasport wheels wheels were all ordered before a decision was made to convert the 2002 race car to 15 inch wheels.  So I have two extra sets still in their boxes.  I also have a few slightly used ones (I don’t have an exact count right now) that I might consider selling at a lower price.  Make me an offer.

The Panasport 13×6 specs are

4×100 bolt pattern
2 ¼ inch center
9 mm offset
steel valve stems installed

Asking price:  $795 per set.

These wheels currently retail for  $290.

Panasport 13×7

panasport wheelsAgain these extra 13 inch wheels were all ordered before a decision was made to convert the 2002 race car to 15 inch wheels.  So I have two extra sets still in their boxes.  I also have a few slightly used ones (I don’t have an exact count right now) that I might consider selling at a lower price.  Make me an offer.

The Panasport 13×7 specs are

4×100 bolt pattern
2 ¼ inch center
3 mm offset
steel valve stems installed

Asking price:  Also $795 per set. (I have only one set)

The 13×6 and 13×7 wheels are priced about the same MSLP, right now at $290.

Other Brands

I also have some odds and ends in other brands of racing wheels available, as well as a ton of 4×100 mm bolt pattern steel wheels

If you have any interest at all in purchasing these wheels, please send me an email at

Ducati 350 Mk 3 and PBIR Track Day Report of 02/09/14

ducati 350

The Fast Ones Ducati 350 On-Site at PBIR Track Day

ducati 350

Martin Weiss, aka Reptile Motos, on his Moto Guzzi V7 at PBIR Track Day on 02/09/14

Okay, honestly this is really an article about the Ducati 350 that Eric is racing now.  But it’s also a short track day report.  The Fast Ones and Reptile Motos recently made an appearance at the February 9th track day at PBIR, formerly known as Moroso Motorsports Park, near West Palm Beach.  The Sunday track day followed a vintage bike show which had been held in downtown West Palm Beach.

02/08/14 Vintage Show in West Palm Beach

ducati 350


Moto Guzzi specialist Martin Weiss, owner/operator of Reptile Motos in Orlando, Eric Watts (Ducati 350), yours truly (Eric’s father and the Ducati’s original owner), and Martin’s step son, Izzy, drove down from Orlando, representing The Fast Ones Vintage Racing at the track day.  Weducati 350 also did a quick walk through of the downtown show on Saturday afternoon before driving back out to the track for camping.

Saturday Night Camping and Drag Racing

ducati 350

Saturday night camping at Moroso/PBIR

It was great camping weather, though quite noisy at the track until the wee hours of the morning! Saturday night also offered the opportunity to watch drag racing, comprised of competition between all sorts of cars, from modified street legal cars to full alcohol motors in rail chassis, to junior dragsters piloted by kids.

Sunday 02/09/14 Track Day

ducati 350

Martin gets a ride on the PBIR Schleppwagen back to the paddock after a kill switch failure

Martin’s rode his well prepared V7 Sport Moto Guzzi, the bike being on track for only the second time since its arrival from its original home in Luzern Switzerland, Martin’s former homeland.  Other than missing a couple of sessions due to the failure of a cheap Chinese made kill switch on the Guzzi, Martin had a full and happy day of track riding.

ducati 350

Tim Gundlach on his loop frame Guzzi

We pitted next to Tim Gundlach and his brother, both Guzzi riders, and builders of the “Raven”.  The Raven is an interesting home-built classic look machine featuring a Guzzi engine turned sideways to create a classic looking V-twin configuration.  It is chain driven and has the appearance of a 1930s era bike.  They claim to be able to make it go quite quickly, so  I was disappointed that they didn’t ride the Raven on track. It would have been really great to watch a good rider passing 600cc sport bikes.  Pitted on our other side was Martin’s good friend Bobby Summerville, aboard a Tonti framed Guzzi.

The video below is from Tim’s Ambassador 750 Guzzi.  You can see Martin exiting to the pits near the end.

And here is some action of Martin on the V7 recorded by Eric:


The Real Subject of this post, Our Ducati 350

Eric’s day was only a little bit disappointing, as we had all wanted to see the Ducati ridden again.  Since the Ducati got no track time this weekend, and because everything in my own little world was revolving around it, then I suppose this post is more about the Ducati and its history than it is about the track day. The backdrop of the track day and the camaraderie and good times spent with fellow motorcycling enthusiasts makes a great foundation for the story.

 History of Eric/Stirling Watts’ Ducati 350.

This Ducati has a fresh motor, just put back together about 15 years ago.  The bike itself had been disassembled since 1991 and scattered about my garage.  Martin spent the past couple of months getting the Ducati re-assembled, but it was not quite as ready as we had hoped.   Let me take a step backwards 41 years to fill in the blanks.

The Initial Purchase

In the fall of 1973 I was a senior in high school.  I was riding a Ducati Mototrans 350 single (manufactured under license from Ducati in Barcelona) which I had purchased brand new earlier in the spring from the Columbus, Ohio Ducati/MotoGuzzi dealership.  I believe the price for the Mototrans was $943, and my mom got me a loan to help me buy it.  In October 1973 I found this Mk 3 350 for sale at a business called “Corvair’s” in Columbus.  They were in the business of buying inventory cheap from businesses that were closing their doors, much like the Odd Lots of today.  Corvair’s of Columbus had purchased about a dozen brand new Ducati singles out of Canada from a dealership that had closed its doors. I got wind of the deal from the young fellow who worked as a mechanic for the Columbus Ducati dealer.

ducati 350

This is a desmo version similar to our bike when it was new. This bike was in the Saturday show in West Palm Beach.

I went out to Corvair’s on a cold rainy October Saturday morning and looked over the selection of Ducati singles they had purchased.  If I had had a few thousand bucks I would have bought them all, but I had to make a choice.  Besides Ducatis, there were also a couple of MZ two stroke MX bikes in the lot.  In the Ducati department there was, as I recall, a blue 250 Mk3 with Desmo head, a couple of yellow 450 Scramblers, a variety of others that I don’t remember, and the one that caught my attention -  a red 350 Mk 3 with a springer head.  I think they also had a silver colored one.  No titles were available, and I bought the bike from them for just a little over $600.  Dad had a lawyer friend who got me a title.

I kept both of these Ducati singles (the Mototrans and the Mk 3) for a while.  After I got back from Switzerland about a year later, I ended up selling the orange Mototrans Ducati for about $500.  I needed a car, and that money was applied towards the purchase of my first car, a 1967 Fiat 124 Sedan.  I kept riding the Mk 3 in stock form on the street until about 1983.

Florida Road Racing in the 1980s

ducati 350

Jim Tribou GSXR 750, inside, and Henry DeGouw, TZ 750, in 1986 at Loudon

In the middle of the 1984 season I started road racing with American Association of Motorcycle Road Racers (AAMRR) at Moroso.  The Florida branch of AAMRR was the original group managed by TZ750 rider extraordinaire, Henry DeGouw.  Henry’s group later became AMA CCS, which still races at PBIR today, and is still under the management of Henry.

There was a very informal group of vintage Florida AAMRR riders who started to become organized around 1985.  After I ran my GS1000 and GS750 for a season at Moroso, I decided to transform the Mk 3 into a full race bike.  It went through several configurations of various home-made seats, rear set controls, gas tanks and megaphones.  During those years I also began to race more with the WERA vintage program in Savannah, and with a really informal and fun group called Florida Gran Prix Riders.  I only ever raced with them at the old Sebring, but they also ran some at some other cheap makeshift racetracks in Florida, including Gainesville Raceway and the Tampa Fairgrounds parking lot.  It was a fun but sometimes slightly dangerous group to race with.

Does anyone know what became of Dwaine Williams?  He ran a little motorcycle speed shop in Lakeland.  Dwaine and Henry DeGouw never saw eye to eye, and the story was that Henry kicked Dwaine out of the track grounds at Moroso back in the AAMRR days for some blatant safety infraction, or for just being a dick, or something like that.  Dwaine then decided to start his own informal and low budget racing club, which became FGPRA.  I stayed out of the politics.  I only know it was cheap to race in FGPRA and it was a lot of fun.  Dwaine rode a very modified 750 Norton quite quickly, which he trailered on a little open trailer behind a clapped out 70s era big Chevy or Oldsmobile sedan.  I rather liked Dwaine, but a lot of people avoided FGPRA because of the personality clashes he had with other organizations which I chose to stay clear of.

ducati 350

Here is Syd Tunstall a few years back working on Malcolm’s bike at au unknown event.

The Tunstalls also came to those Sebring FGPRA events, and it was there that I became a little bit acquainted with Malcolme, the son who is roughly my age, and Syd Tunstall,  Malcome’s Dad. Syd was an Englishman who had immigrated to the US and later became Ducati’s original and sole US importer back in 1959.

When I bought my Ducati, Ducati was an unknown name.  I mean completely unknown.  Now Ducati is a big name, and nobody even knows of the Tunstall family and their contributions to the success of Ducati.  Syd never got much credit for putting them on the map here.  You can read more about the Tunstall family in Mick Walker’s book “Ducati Singles”.

AHRMA Daytona 1986 and 1987

Eric was there!  He was three months old.  We ran the all three bikes at the Daytona during bike week in 1986 and 1987.  At that time the AMACCS modern bike cluib races races and the AHRMA vintage races both ran during bike week.  Accordingly I rode the Ducati in the vintage events and the big Suzukis in the AMACCS full track configuration.  These were the only AHRMA events I ever ran, as the organization did not really appeal to me.  First, the AHRMA of that era was comprised mostly of riders who had little or no track experience.  Secondly they were quite adamant about their rather unreasonable rules which in my opinion left no room for imagination and creativity.  That was why I always favored riding with WERA, FGPRA, and the sometimes non-existent vintage group within CCS and AAMRR.  These groups always had more of a “run what you brung” mentality, and let you go out and race and have fun.  That’s really the only point.  I felt that AHRMA represented a snobbish element with which I did not care to associate.

Engine Modifications

For the first two seasons, we ran the engine stock. When it came time for a complete tear down which included splitting the cases, we decided to just go all the way.

The Bottom End

ducati 350Ducati single engines utilize a pressed together roller bearing crankshaft.  This means that the big end bearing is fit to extremely tight tolerances, has an extremely long life, is well lubricated and thus offers much less rotational friction than does the more common setup of plain split bearing inserts.  This also means that replacing the connecting rod and ensuring that bearing tolerances are correct is no simple task.

I chose to have the crankshaft lightened and rebalanced by a crankshaft specialist, Falicon, located in Tampa.   That work would be a wasted effort without also lightening and strengthening the connecting rod.  The rod was purchased from Carillo, a reputable competition connecting rod manufacturer.  I got my hands on the connecting rod, then purchased the appropriate roller bearings from a bearing specialist in England, checked and rechecked tolerances, and had Falicon press it all together again.

The ends of the crankshaft, as well as the transmission shafts ride in ball bearing assemblies which are pressed into the case castings.  When they get worn out, you split the cases and press them out.  We pressed them out and obtained the required replacements.  Putting new ball bearing assemblies into this type of engine requires heating the cases in an oven to expand the size of the openings, and freezing the ball bearing assemblies to make them smaller, and then swiftly and efficiently pressing them back in. On two occasions this was accomplished in my own kitchen using the oven and the freezer, and a press.

The piston is a tried and tested piece supplied by Malcome Tunstall.  The manufacturer is Arias. The Tunstalls have had great success with this piston.  I didn’t measure the compression ratio, but it is advertised as roughly 10.5 to 1.  We did, however, measure the piston to valve tolerance, just to be sure there would be no unexpected internal collisions.

The Head

ducati 350

This is not our bike again. This picture shows a Dell’Orto 29mm with remote float.

We are currently running a stock head with standard valves and the square slide 29 mm DellOrto carb that came on the bike.  We plan to fit our more modified head sometime soon, but we elected not to install it this time due to some oiling difficulties.  Fitted with that head the engine burned oil only after getting significantly hot, and the only conclusion we could come to is that the wall between the valve box and the ported out intake tract is so thin that oil is getting sucked in when it gets thin enough to be sucked in.  Perhaps the ported tract need to be thickened and reshaped.

For what it’s worth, in my modifed head I installed a 42 mm intake valve from a Chrysler engine, and the exhaust valve was increased to 36 mm.  I had the valve seat work done by someone more experienced than myself.  Cams are stock grind, and you can’t get much more radical with cam timing really.  The Mk 3 valve spring head cam timing is virtually identical with the cam timing in the desmodromic head.

In the hogged out intake tract, we ran a 36 mm round slide DellOrto from a Ducati 750 Sport.   I built my own intake “manifold” to match the big carb to the hogged out intake port.  (It’s not really a manifold, but simply an adaptor, on a single cylinder engine).

We never tested this engine, but I have read that Ducati engines with similar modifications have delivered dynamometer results over 40 bhp.  Of course, we are going to have to fix this modified head again before we ever see those numbers.  But according to Mick Walker, Ducati 350 singles in such a state of tune have reached over 120 mph on the Isle of Man.

Modifications by the late Gregg Woodruff

Maybe I’m getting off track again.  But this is a good point at which to introduce the contributions of my late good friend Gregg Woodruff.  Gregg and I became friends when we were both employed by the contractor for technical services for the USAF Eastern Test Range.  The ETR supports all USAF funded launch activities originating from facilities on Cape Canaveral AFS.  Our activities included launch and tracking related work both at the Cape and at downrange tracking and communications stations which were located in The Bahamas, Antigua, and Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.

Gregg worked as a machinist and fabricator in the metal shops at Patrick AFB, and I was ducati 350in the Communications engineering group on the same base.  We both came from sports car and motorcycle racing families. It was perfect match.  I could create work orders for “antenna parts” and Gregg could manufacture them!  The US Air Force never had any idea that they were actually sponsoring a vintage racing bike.  Besides, those guys in the shops had nothing to do most of the time.

Aluminum Alloy Swingarm and Rearset Brake

One of the most beautiful pieces of work on this bike is the cast aluminum alloy swingarm adapted from a Kawasaki KX-80.  On a manual milling machine, Gregg fabricated two beautiful shock mounting lugs from forged aluminum which were then heli-arced to the swingarm.  The swingarm rides in needle bearings as opposed to the standard bronze bushings about which the more flexible steel tubing swingarm rotated.  There is a little bit of a tire clearance issue, so it’s preferable to use a 100/80 rather than a 100/90 sized rear tire.  The rear wheel could also come back a bit more in the swingarm to provide more tire clearance if we would go up a few teeth on the rear sprocket and compensate by using a smaller drive sprocket up front.

This swingarm is, or was at the time we built it, unacceptable to AHRMA, and technically it was not even allowed under the WERA rules.  But in WERA and especially in FGRPRA, nobody really cares.  Besides, I used to also run the 350 in the F3 class against real 125 two stroke road racers, and in F3, modifications are unlimited.  We wanted to build a special modernized and improved Ducati, and not just a nice looking relic restored to factory specs.

ducati 350

You can see a little of the modified Kawasaki KX 80 aluminum swingarm in this picture

We elected not to use any rearset control on the shift lever.  This bike, like all Italian bikes built before the federal mandate for left side shift levers, shifts on the right side in a one up four down pattern in stock form.  The factory shift lever was a heel and toe design which was operated from forward and centrally positioned rider/operator footpegs.  The rider/operator footpegs are too far forward for roadracing work and have been removed. The rearset footpegs are simply the factory passenger footpegs.  From the rear passenger position, the transmission can be easily shifted  by simply pushing and pulling the back arm of the double shift lever, the back art being initially designed to be operated by the heel.  The front arm of the shift lever has been cut off.  Thus, since shifting is done from the passenger peg, the shift pattern is inverted, making it a one down and four up pattern.

The rear brake lever is a beautifully crafted forged aluminum allow piece which actuates the brake via a rod. These parts were also fabricated in the PAFB shops.

BSA 650 Triple Clamps and Tapered Roller Steering Head Bearings

This was a pretty easy conversion.  Ball bearing steering heads wear a lot, always require adjustment, and always seem to have a little bit of slop and play in them.  The stock forks which utilized short external springs mounted up top were initially replaced by used Triumph forks which measured about 34mm in diameter.  That has been updated since the current forks are 35mm units from a Guzzi, adapted for the purpose of the eventual disc brake conversion.

The Front Brake

Back in the day, when I was trying to mores strictly follow vintage class rules, I elected to install a real drum brake.  I bought a 4 leading shoe front drum brake from a Suzuki 750 water buffalo, drilled it full of holes for cooling and to help lighten the whole assembly, and adapted it to the above referenced Triumph forks.  It worked pretty well, in fact much better than did the wimpy little stock 2 shoe brake, but it was heavy.

This time the decision was made to build a special, not just a replica.  It was to have real brakes.  Several years back I had purchased a Guzzi front hub which would carry a disc.  Martin purchased a new Akront style rim (I think the rim is actually a Borrani) and laced it to the Guzzi hub.  Guzzi forks replaced the worn out Triumph tubes, which were too long anyway.  Some material had to be removed from the triple clamps to accommodate the larger diameter fork tubes.  The result is what you see.  It has real brakes now!

Technically the disc brake should be permitted under vintage rules, even though I am sure AHRMA and WERA rules still prohibit it, as the 1974 Ducati 350 Sport did offer a single front disc as an option.

The Fairing and Tank and Seat

ducati 350

Fitting the fairing in Reptile Motos Shop

I used a variety of gas tanks on this bike.  At first I used the stock Mk 3 tank and a home made fiberglass single seat, with no fairing.  As time went on I fitted a Yamaha TZ 125 fairing and windscreen, and built a replacement fiberglass seat that I never liked.  At one point in the 80s I bought a 250SCR narrow case Ducati for parts, and I think that’s where I got the bigger steel tank, which looked pretty good.  And I even tried to fold up sheet aluminum and build an alloy tank, which was hideously ugly.  I did show up at the track in that configuration once, and it didn’t look so bad because the fairing was hiding it.

I apologize for not having any pictures from the old days.  I never thought about pictures, and it seems to me that people in general thought about pictures far less in the days of analog film only.  Somewhere I do have a stack of photos, in an old box somewhere – one of those boxes that’s been moved from house to house over the years.

The folded aluminum seat was built by the metal shops at Patrick AFB.  It was designed to go with the angular looking folded and heli arced tank that looked so bad.  But the seat came out nicely, and for the sake of a unique look, we decided to keep it when we purchased the factory replica racing tank and fairing from Tunstall’s.  They also sell a couple of very attractive fiberglass seats for Ducati singles, but we felt that this seat adds some personality to the bike.

The red white and green paint scheme currently in use was Martin’s idea.  It resembles the 750 Hailwood replica fairing, but it is still unique.  I had painted my old TZ 125 fairing in a similar red white and green scheme because it was supposed to resemble an Italian flag.  I had not even thought about the Hailwood replica.  Martin fabricated the fairing mounts which allow the fairing to be quickly removed using eight quarter turn Dzus fasteners.

Exhaust Megaphone

With the smaller stock 29mm Dell’Orto installed, martin wisely chose to use the smaller megaphone which I had initially used in the Ducatis earlier racing days.  It’s a straight through megaphone.  I have also a larger output megaphone which I had used with the ported head and 36mm carb.  It tends to make power at higher revs, while the smaller opening tends to spread power more evenly through the usable rpm range.  Both of them sound good, and are not annoyingly loud at all.


In Martin’s shop we weighed in using an electronic scale at 251 pounds wet with the bike race ready.  That’s quite an improvement over the initial 280 pounds dry in street trim, which means that a Mk 3 on the street weighed somewhere around 295 pounds wet as a street bike.

We reduced weight to the extreme is a number of ways that most people don’t even bother with.  Most important is the reduction of reciprocating weight, especially in the drive train.  That’s the biggest reason that flywheels are removed and crankshafts are lightened in competitive racing motors.  We drilled holes in every reciprocating as well as in other non reciprocating parts.  We even hollowed out the centers of a number of the heavier bolts.  Some would find this a bit absurd, and, admittedly, maybe it is!

Troubles at PBIR and Future Plans

ducati 350

Time to take the clutch apart again!

We basically had trouble with three items.  First off, starting this bike with the higher compression piston installed has never been easy.  Combined with the fact that the oil bath clutch was not fresh, we experienced some starting difficulties.  We were using standard Castrol, which is kind of slippery stuff, and found that when the clutch was dropped in second gear when push starting, the clutch was just slipping.  That behavior combined with the fact that the idle jetting is not right on, gave us some huge starting problems.  We also failed to start with a fresh set of points, and did not have the timing precisely set.

ducati 350

Eric and Martin discussing what to do next

We had successfully started the bike and run it up and down the street the day before, but on track day it just refused to light up.  We fiddled with fresh plugs, cleaned the points repeatedly, moved the timing around, and even took the clutch apart and dried to plates off to give it some extra grip to get it started.  After accidentally losing some clutch linkage parts through the clutch actuating tube, we decided we should go do some work before the next event.

To remedy these problems, three modifications are planned for the near future.  Electronic pointless ignitions with a choice of programmed advance curves are now available.  Dry clutch kits are also readily available off the shelf for Ducati singles.  Those changes, supplemented by a set of starting rollers, will cure the starting blues, and once we get it warmed up with a selection of the right idle jets, we will be enabled to make this thing more reliable.

The other future plan is the addition of an electronic tach.  We were not able to locate the mechanical drive parts which drive the tach from the bevel gears, but after some consultation with the Tunstall family, Malcome suggested going the electronic route on account of tach drive failures in the past that head caused some bevel gear damage.

Thank You, Reptile Motos!

ducati 350All of the work that went into resurrecting the Ducati was due to the intelligent and diligent work or Martin Weiss, aka Reptile Motos.  We thank Martin for his time and interest and we look forward to a long racing relationship.


Industry Wide Motorsports Blogs

Mike Hailwood & Honda At the Isle Of Man

The Legendary “Mike the Bike”  Hailwood and Honda At the Isle Of Man

In 1967 Mike Hailwood and Honda won what many historians consider to be the most dramatic Isle of Man race of all time. Fighting against such motorcycle racers as the notorious Giacomo Agostini. Mike Hailwood made the record braking AVERAGE speed lap of 175.05 Km/h ! (about 110 mph! )

It took 8 years before this record was broken.

Mike Hailwood

PBIR Track Day and Ducati 350 History

An Industry Wide Blog for Vintage Motorsports

industry wide blog

industry wide blogIndustry wide blog vs individual blogging

Whatever your business specialty, participation in an industry wide blog can be an effective supplement to your online authority. Blogging presence begins with your own self promotion in your own blog,  but you can gain a lot of visibility by participating in industry wide online presence.

This post is an offer, so please don’t stop here!  Read on!

Forums are a popular place to start. Participation in an industry wide blog, a blog operated by an independent editor who accepts blog posts (and most accept advertising) from various businesses across a particular industry, are another option you might want to consider.

Why do most industry wide blogs look so annoying?industry wide blog

I noticed a while back that most industries are pretty much void of an effective industry wide blog. Those that exist for cars and motorcycles are usually jam packed with distracting banner ads.

In fact, they are so jam packed with annoying banner ads and distractions, that, in my opinion, they are not pleasing to the eye.  I tend to not want to stay there.  They are not really blogs, but advertising sites.

I didn’t do a lot of looking across a wide variety of industries before I made these statements, but I did search for industry wide blogs covering subjects about cars and motorcycles.

I did not find any which tempted me to return to them on the basis of appearance.  They were generally too flashy, annoying, and more commercially oriented than they were content oriented. Again, they are not blogs, but advertising websites disguised as blogs.

industry wide blogAn annoying example

I don’t want to pick on anybody, but I’m going to give an example of what I find to be an annoying motorcycle industry blog that is in my opinion too flashy, annoying, and distracting.

I also might be doing them a slight favor just by mentioning them, so that’s all fair and good.  For an example of the look many of us do not like, just go to www.motorcycleusa.comThat’s annoying.

My concept of a cleanly styled industry wide blog

So, I asked myself, “Self, why can’t there be an industry wide blog that looks as clean and free on annoying banner ads as my own private blogs do?”

I also asked myself, “Self, why do industry wide blogs have to look like industry wide blogs?  Why can’t they retain the clean appearance of a private blog?”

And my self answered “Stirling, it’s because you haven’t created one yet.”  In response I thought about what I am interested in doing, and set myself to creating a new blog about that something.  A couple of months ago I volunteered to create a website and blog discussing vintage motorsports topics.

The site I created focuses on vintage motorcycle racing and on vintage automobile racing.  I’ve been involved in both, so this theme is a great fit for me.  It makes it easy for me to stay motivated  to create regular content while we popularize the site.

If you are already on the vintage site, welcome!   If you are on the STRATEGY Content Marketing site, then check out the vintage site and then read on back here again!

What is different about this blog?
industry wide blog

There are no ads on it.  There are none, and there never will be any.   It looks like a blog for enthusiasts, by enthusiasts, because, it basically is.

If you want to write about something relevant to vintage racing while promoting your products or services, I’ll include you as a guest blogger.  You won’t feel like you’re competing with other advertisers, because you’re not really adverti per se.  What you’re really doing is improving your own self image, bettering your own “brand” in the vintage community.

I’ll even help you write your post if that’s what you need. The fee will be modest in comparison to that of a banner ad, which nobody wants to see anyway.

industry wide blogJoin me NOW for free!

As traffic volume increases on this site, the privilege of blogging on it will become more valuable.  Join me now for no fee at all by simply sending me some unique content, or an outline for content you would like to be written, or simply new ideas for new content.

How long will it be free?

Charges for publication will apply to new contributors only when my stats show that traffic projections are significant.

Contributor fees will be scaled up in proportion to the site’s traffic volume.  Contributor fees will remain at the participation fee level which was in effect at the time they published their initial piece of content.

So, start contributing now for free, while the site is in the most need of being stimulated!

I anticipate a future graduated contributor fee structure which will increase in proportion as contributor space on the blog is higher in demand.

What kind of content do we need?

If it has to do with old cars and./or motorcycles and the topic of racing, write about it!  Yourindustry wide blog post is a great place to plug whatever it is that you sell or service.

If you restore ZF transmissions, for example, write a technical article about that.  Let everybody know what you know.

If you’re a Weber carburetor guru who knows how to properly rejet for the adaptation of a nonstandard set of carbs on this engine or that one, then toot your horn here!

Or, if you build café racers from old oddball junkyard bikes, write an article and blow your own horn here.

Or, if you just attended an awesome SVRA race and you just want to write a report while plugging something about your race related business, do it!

Those are just examples that flew off the top of my head.  Drop me an email or give me a call to talk about anything you would like to contribute.

industry wide blogWhere we stand now

We need regular periodic blog post contributions to make this site grow.  In the coming weeks I expect to begin sharing content from this site on as many pages and forums as can be found which relate to the vintage racing world.

I’ll keep you all posted on growth.  Presently traffic is low.  Today we received 40 visits, but visit counts always increase each time new content is published.  It could be your material making this worthy cause grow!

Content Marketing

This is content marketing for vintage racing.  If you’d like to learn more about the generalities of content marketing, please watch the free video training series which Kristen, my wife and the other half of STRATEGY Content Marketing, has produced.   I’ve included a hyperlink to the training because this post is going on both blogs.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Hanging Off or Riding Upright, Which is Better?


To Hang off, or to Ride Upright? – That is the Question

hang off

The controversy surrounding hanging off

hang off

An extreme example of power sliding and efective weight distribution

In the past 30 years, so much has been written praising the virtues of “hanging off” of a motorcycle when cornering at high speeds, that it makes my head swim.  It appears to me that every effort is made these days to encourage and defend the application of “hanging off” by those who identify with its daring appearance.

So popular is this emphasis on hanging off that the least experienced riders are self assured that they are experts on the matter.

When it comes to sporting motorcycle riding on racetracks, it seems that every Tom, Dick, or Harry believes themselves to be an expert on the subject, based on what they have read, or based on the handful of times they have been on a racetrack themselves.

This hanging off thing only began to become wildly popular, my memory estimates, around the mid 1970s.  .Many of its current proponents may not have been born yet at that time, and they have grown up learning the educated delusion that this is the only way to properly ride a motorcycle fast.

hang off

Two generations of motorcycle road racing. Stirling Watts in 1985 and Eric Watts in 2013.

Hanging off was shunned by numerous riders of earlier generations

I’ve always been a great fan of the late Phil Irving.  Irving was an Australian mechanical engineer and journalist who made important strides in motorcycle and engine development.  He was the chief engineer for Vincent for many years, and the man primarily responsible for the success of the legendary Black Shadow.

In the literary world, Irving authored several classic books on engine and motorcycle technology, and was a regular technical contributor to motoring publications of his era.  I cannot recall whether it was in  the book “Black Smoke”, or “Rich Mixture” or “Motorcycle Engineering” where Irving blasted the practice of climbing all over the motorcycle, condemning it to be but primarily a visual spectacle.  I cannot say that  I agree with him 100%, but that was an expert’s opinion at that time that is now contrary to current thought.

Ted Hubbard, where are you today?

In the mid 80s I had a racing friend named Ted Hubbard.  I think he lived in South Carolina or Georgia.  We always met up at Roebling Road near Savannah.  Ted was at that time, I think, in his early 60s.  Ted had lived in England in the late 60s and early 70s,where he had been a development engineer, and as I recall also a test rider for BSA.

During the time I was associated with Ted we became good friends, hanging out at WERA races and pitting together with the other vintage people.  (Ted and his bike were vintage, but in my case, only my bike qualified as vintage.  I was still relatively young!)

I was racing my 350 Ducati single, and Ted was always racing a big British single.  I believe it was a 441 Victor based bike that he normally rode.  He almost always won the race in his class on that Victor.  Ted was a lightning fast rider and a practical, intelligent man.  He ended up eventually doing some porting work for me on a Ducati single head, and installed a bg intake valve for me.  He was, and I hope still is, a great guy.

Flat track riding style on the road race track.  It works well!

Ted’s riding style?  Ted had more American TT and half mile and mile experience than

hanging off

Ted Hubbard’s road racing style

everyone else did.  His riding style was closer to that which you would have seen in dirt track racing than in road racing.   He was always well tucked in, knees against the tank, and he knew exactly where he was on the track every millisecond.  There were of course lots of younger riders on more powerful bikes, climbing all over them, who were not able to keep up with Ted.  And Ted privately shunned their riding style.

I had another friend in the same era named Royce Eaton, from Daytona.  Royce was about 65 years old then, and ran a small hobby type performance motorcycle shop. Memory tells me Royce was a retired airline pilot.  I don’t know what became of him either.  But anyway, there was no way I ever could keep up the pace with Royce his vintage class Triumph T100 Trident, me riding aggressively on my highly modified and more modern GS 750 Suzuki.  Conservation of momentum seemed to be the biggest part of his secret.

Royce’s riding style?  You guessed it.  Tucked in, knees on the tank, always in control, never climbing around on the bike.  Royce also shunned hanging off, and I believe that most of his racing experience had been on asphalt.

Boet van Dulmen and other big stars

hanging off

Tucked in old school style

Again, this may be an unfamiliar name to many younger readers.  Van Dulmen was a Dutch world class road racing star who was at the top of his career in the late 70s, around the time of Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Freddy Spencer, and the likes of that era.  Van Dulmen was in fact quite renowned for his lightning fast and always tucked in riding position, but it was a style that was beginning to fall out of favor at that time.

Watch this short documentary and interview with Boet van Dulmen about the Assen TT in 1981, and why Van Dulmen won it.  The commentary and interview are in Dutch.  A couple of minutes into the video you will see the effectiveness of Boet’s upright style.  It’s interesting to see him passing Marco Lucchinelli in the rain, knee all stuck out to the side, while van Dulmen stays tucked in.

So, why hang off? Let’s ask the road racing guru, Keith Code.

I had the privilege of receiving personal instruction from the Master, Keith Code, back in the days before the California Superbike School had become a huge deal.  I attended a road racing school under his tutelage at Roebling Road in the Spring of 1984.  Hanging off was not a subject that was recommended during that class.  Here is what Keith has to say on the subject in his classic work, Twist of the Wrist:

You are moving your body weight from the top of the bike to a position that is lower and to the inside. This changes how your weight influences the bike when centrifugal force begins pushing it toward the outside of the turn. When you weight is higher on the bike, it gives the cornering forces a lever to work with. To overcome the centrifugal force, the bike must be leaned over in the turn. The greater the force, the more you must lean to overcome it. By hanging off, you move your weight to the inside of the bike and lower to the ground, presenting less of a lever for the forces to act upon. This does not weaken the force, it simply lessens its effect. Now the bike does not have to be leaned over as far to make the same radius of turn, and CAN GO FASTER WITHOUT having to INCREASE the lean angle. Even if you go through the turn at the same speed as a rider sitting upright on his machine, you can begin your acceleration sooner than he can because your straight-up bike has more rubber on the road This can be a tremendous advantage. Remember, increasing your speed in a turn effectively decreases the radius of the turn. Right or wrong, everyone who is currently competitive us IS hanging off.

Hanging off has nothing to do with safety!

kevin-schwantz hang off

Kevin Schwantz displaying excellent weight distribution form.

I have heard it said by bench racers, who once spent at most a handful of times on a racetrack, that hanging off prevents you from low siding.  That’s pure bullshit, as evidenced by Keith’s comments above.  Hanging off is about being competitive on the modern racetrack, and nothing more.  It’s about carrying a higher speed while leaned over at the same maximum angle as the guy who is not hanging off.  When riding with a group of other riders who are also not world class competition material, it’s pretty meaningless.
You will low side when you exceed the limits of traction by being leaned over too far.  That’s the only cause of a low side crash.  You can lose traction when you’re upright because you’re riding at the edge of your tires contact patch, or you can lose traction for the very same reason when you’re hanging of just inches from the pavement.  Perhaps being out of the seat already might be an advantage if you were to crash, because you’re already closer to the ground.  But I have always planned not to crash anyway!

You can also drag parts lightly without drastically increasing your chances of loss of adhesion.  I’ve proven this point to myself.  My old Suzuki GS1000 based race bike almost had a hole ground into the alternator cover on the left side of the engine from making contact with the pavement.

I never went down because of dragging parts, but I did experience a couple of violent high side effects on the GS1000  from dragging the left side of the motor, from which I recovered without going down.  I think that those high side effects were amplified by some kind of improper bodily reaction on my part after I felt the contact, but I never figured that out. It didn’t happen often enough for me to figure it out, and I certainly never tried to encourage experiencing it again.

hang off

The Master himself, Keith Code

Ask yourself this:

Ask yourself:  If two identical motorcycles are riding at the limits of adhesion, and one rider is hanging off, and the other one is not, which rider is going faster?

You will naturally and correctly answer “The one who is hanging off, of course.”

Does this make one of them more or less likely to low side by exceeding the limits of adhesion?  Of course not!  They are both riding at the limits of their tire contact patch.

The two primary  advantages  to hanging off are:

First, the additional speed you carry while still cornering,

Second, after you climb back on center at the exit of the corner, you can start applying power sooner than the rider who remained upright, because for the same speed you’re carrying as the more upright guy, you have more tire patch on the road than he does.

Isn’t that advantageous?

For the super rider, yes. For the guy who goes to the racetrack a few times per year, no.

Focusing on smoothing out every transition you make will make you faster than focusing on any one item in your technique. All things need to happen quickly at high speed, but the sudden severity of every change of every condition needs to be minimized and smoothed. That translates to smooth transitions from being hard on the gas to being hard on the brakes, smooth gear shifting both up and down, especially in corners, and smoothness in the shifting around of your own body weight.  That last item is last because it has the least overall effect.

In most cases, especially on less powerful motorcycles, shifting your weight drastically around is a factor that’s only marginally helpful in comparison to the many other refinements in smoothness you need to learn to make with respect to conserving momentum, being in the right place and following the right line, and all the elements of smoothness of action.

For everything…. there is a season….and a time… turn, turn, turn….

hang off

When men were men! Making a KZ1000 go fast.

There are times when a hanging off technique can be quite necessary.  It depends on what you are riding.  Are you riding something from the old steel tubing frame era, like a GS1100 or a KZ1000, or a competitive motorcycle of recent design?

The best case in point was riding my 1978 GS1000 at racetrack speeds.  It required a great amount of steering input, muscle, and weight transfer just to convince it to change directions.  I’m convinced that was most of the reason that hanging off became so popular in the early 80s.  Everyone was riding GS1100s and KZ1000s (and the like)!

Well I hope that was entertaining and didn’t piss you off  too bad if you happen to like to hang off!

No insult is meant to the self proclaimed expert bench racers who insist that hanging off keeps them from crashing. Maybe you believe that it does that for you, but I am quite sure that It doesn’t do that for me.

Unless we were all world class riders of the highest developed skill level (of course we can always pretend) then I don’t believe it makes a hootin’ bit of difference whether or not we hang off in high speed corners on today’s most superbly designed motorcycles.  There are more important things to learn about controlling a motorcycle first .

But it sure looks feels good, and it looks cool too!  Keep the shiny side up!




Track Day Report Jennings GP by Eric Watts

track day

Track Day Report from November 25th, 2013  at Jennings GP in Jennings, FL

A great track day in November has to start out cold! It was about 37 degrees when we arrived at the track at about 7:30 am.  After unloading, registering which group we would ride in, and getting things setup, I still had to remove a few items on my Ducati  848 Streetfighter to make it track ready. The front turn signals and the kickstand had yet to be removed.

Prep Work

track day

It’s too damned cold out there!

Martin Weiss and I shared his trailer to get to Jennings from the Orlando area.  Shortly after my prep work was done, Martin got his Guzzi V7 race bike started and warmed up for a few minutes. This was the first time his bike has been run at a track in the US, I might add.  It had also been  4 or so years since its last appearance on a track.  The Guzzi lived its former life in Martin’s former homeland in eastern Switzerland. A few other prep tasks were carried out such as checking our tire pressures, zip tying any loose wires down or other things that are otherwise usually hooked up to something when the bike is in street form, fueling up, and we were soon ready to go.


Mandatory Riders Meeting!

track day

3 Amigos, Steve Salvo, Eric Watts, Martin Weiss


A rider meeting was carried out at about 9 am. They went over the usual things, flags and pitting in and out procedures as well as emergency situations on the track. The riders who would be going out in the novice group then assembled and we went over how we would run the first session. Sebastian Didato, owner of Melillimoto Ducati dealer who was hosting the event showed us how we would follow the lead riders (that consisted of himself and a few other experienced racers) one at a time for one lap each to get a feel for the proper racing line on the track.  After that we all decided that because it was still very cold, we would do a track walk around first. This was very helpful. You get to see so many more things when you walk the track first that you will never see when going by things at speed. I walked with Sebastian most of the time and he explained his line on each corner as we went along.

First Session

track day

First session – taking it easy!

The first session for me was very slow doing the follow the lead thing. We ran the whole lap at about 40-50 mph max. I don’t think I shifted out of 2nd gear. That’s not to say it was very beneficial to others there. I know there must have been some complete beginners there as one of the guys in my group (we went out in groups of 3-4 per lead rider) went wide and into the grass and we were just barely moving along. He soon pitted right after as I guess it must have scared him, but it was probably good he pitted, have a re-think and go out again. I have the advantage of having done quite a bit of kart racing as a child and teenager and I felt after one or two laps I pretty much had it down and was ready to go on at speed. Unfortunately the next 2 sessions were the same thing; I wanted to go ahead so badly. I sort of feel 2 of my sessions were a waste because of this, but I just went along with it. I choose to go out in the novice class because I didn’t know what novice meant. I could have meant fairly fast for all I knew, and this was the first time on race track for me on a motorcycle so I was just playing it safe.

Finally, Open Track!

track day

Eric picks up the pace!

Finally after lunch we were let loose and could open it up.  I followed Sebastian for a bit and watched his line before eventually passing him as he waved me by. I think he was still helping someone else who was following him and was riding fairly conservatively. If I remember right, just at the end of the session about 5-6 laps or so later I came up on him and the rider he was helping and lapped them. The second session after lunch it was decided by someone to run an entire session for each group running the track direction backwards or clockwise that is at Jennings. (Counter-clockwise is the normal configuration) I didn’t really want to do this, as I was still just trying to figure out the line the normal way around, but went out anyways just to take advantage of as much track time as I could. I again found myself passing people in the novice group left and right. I came up on a guy on a Ducati Multistrada who was just cruising along and passed by him with ease in the back section of the track in the quick left right section of corners back there. I’m not entirely sure where Martin was on the track, but he must have been on the complete other side of the track the whole of all the sessions. I know he ran out of battery power and his bike died in one session and he had to get a tow back to the pits as he is running a total loss system on the Guzzi.

track day

Eric and Steve havin’ a blast!

Our friend Steve Salvo riding his Ducati Monster and I had a good little session a few times out there. At one point I got by him but then I ran wide in the fast left hander (turn 2) and went into the grass for a bit, I misjudged that one and took it a little too hot. But all was fine I just went straight on into the grass and slowed down gently before re-entering the track behind him again. I eventually caught up to him again and passed him also in the back section of left rights. It was a fun little run there.

Final Session the Best!

track day

Getting comfortable with speed now!

By the final session of the day I really felt I was getting into the groove. I was finding my braking points and where to shift gears. Most of the track, at least on my bike (the 848 Streetfighter) which is geared pretty tall it seems, was spent in only 3 maybe 4 gears. The long back stretch consisting of turns 2 and 3 the fast left handers (it’s not really a straight away at all, it’s a huge left hand sweeper the whole way down) you can’t approach top speed of your bike unless you are really pushing it, I think anyway. I hit maybe 125-130mph (the times I glanced down anyway to look) at the end of the back stretch and I think I was only in 4th gear. The back section of the track with the quick section of tighter left and right hand corners is spent mostly in one gear I felt, just leave it in 3rd the whole way and roll on and off the throttle, maybe a little bit of front brake before each turn as I started to pick up speed by the end of the day, but other than that all in 3rd gear, maybe dropped it to 2nd for one of them then upshifted back to 3rd but that’s it. It’s definitely not a top speed track since its all turns for the most part. The front straightaway is not very long at all and you also can’t get to top speed of your machine there either. It’s going to be a great track for the Ducati 350 single race bike when it’s done because of this and that bike not having a great deal of top speed. All your time is made up in the corners at Jennings I believe.

Not My Last Track Day!  This is only the Beginning!

track day

Finally I get to use all that rubber!

I’ll definitely be back to Jennings in the future and this won’t be my last track day, that’s for sure!


Automotive memories from the 60s

Automotive Memories from the 1960s

automotive memories

Automotive Memories from Eastern Kentucky, 1965 to 1970 | Stirling Watts
These automotive memories of my youth are interspersed with fond memories of my Dad, who was a first rate mechanic and competitive driver in the early SCCA days and a die- hard  firearms enthusiast.  These experiences all took place during our temporary residence in eastern Kentucky from 1965 to 1970.  The following paragraphs are an excerpt from a more complete article describing that period of my life.  The car pictured is very similar to the one described in the paragraphs below.  Ours had bubble style headlight covers which had been added by the previous owner, but otherwise the car looks identical,

An Interesting Afternoon Drive

While we were living in that green house, one Sunday afternoon we decided to all take a long drive.  At that time the family car was a 1962 Lancia Appia, a very tiny 4 door sedan by modern standards.  Our destination was Pine Mountain, in Breathitt County in the south part of Kentucky near the Tennessee line.  I remember that the terrain down that way was very rugged, and that dad had said that Breathitt County also had a reputation for being a rough place.  We had an employee on that job named Bert Couch, who came from Breathitt County who could attest to its rough reputaion.  Bert was a tough man.

The whole family was on this Sunday driving excursion, my two older brothers in the back seat and I think I was up front between Mom and Dad on the bench front seat.  We had just been to Pine Mountain and I think we were sill in Breathitt County heading back north towards Morehead.  A carload of possibly drunk men, I think there were four of them in their car, appeared in front of us.  It seems to me they were driving something like a standard Chevy sedan of the period.  They seemed to be wandering all over the road.  Dad prepared to pass them, and just as he pulled to the left to go around, the driver also swerved left and jammed on his brakes forcing us to almost come to a stop.  Then they drove off, laughing at the fun they had just had.

Pretty soon we were behind them again and dad figured he would just pass them up and get away from them.  Again,  Dad pulled to the left to pass and they repeated the same trick, apparently even more amused at the fun they were having with this Yankee with Ohio tags.  Dad opened the glove box and pulled out his M1911 .45 auto.  On the third attempt to pass, he plainly displayed the .45 in his right hand, pointing it straight up, as he pulled to the left to pass.  The occupants of the car all immediately stopped laughing.  The driver jammed on the brakes as we were passing them.  If my memory serves me right, we saw them make a U turn and head the other direction.

I related this story at Dad’s funeral.  That day affirmed to me Dad’s strong character.  Harley Watts was a tough and respectable individual.  Dad almost always carried.  Maybe it was illegal, I have no idea, but there was always a loaded pistol at his disposal at virtually every moment, and he lived a long and incident free life.

Fast Street Driving in a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT

I remember a couple of automotive incidents  from that era involved Dad’s 1959 Ferrari 250 GT, his hobby car.  You have to understand something of the automotive background of the Watts family to appreciate why he owned a Ferrari, while we all lived an average and far less than flamboyant middle class style of life.  Any way, Dad used to drive the Ferrari back and forth to Columbus every other weekend during the school year, when the family was back home.   It was 165 mile drive which included driving through traffic lights in four  towns including the edge of Columbus, across the toll bridge into Kentucky in Portsmouth, Ohio, followed by the portion of the trip where he would really make time on 2 lane rural roads the rest of the way into Morehead.  His best time in the Ferrari was right at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and average speed of 66 mph,  including traffic lights in 4 towns.  Guess for yourself what his maximum speed must have been along various parts of the route.  I rode with him on one such commute which was far slower than his best average, and I recall seeing the speedometer dial pushing the 140 mph mark on more than just a few occasions along the way.

One time I remember fondly that we were driving on KY 10 along the Ohio River between Portsmouth, OH and Vanceburg, KY.   We came up behind a guy in a convertible Corvette, probably a late 50s model, and he obviously thought he was going to be able to prevent Dad from passing him.  I guess the fact that we came up on him at a high rate of speed must have been to him an indication of a desire to race.  I’m guessing the Vette was running along at 100 to 110 mph on the straight sections, and then he was all over the place in the corners.  The Ferrari had excellent cornering manners, but lacked the punch  to overtake the Vette in the straight sections.  It only took a couple of corners to make it by him.  Dad just left enough space between us and him to allow himself to gain on him while building momentum at the exit of the corner. Just about the time the Vette driver was ready to punch the throttle , we slingshotted past him.  In only a few more corners he was totally left in the dust.  I LOVED driving with Dad in those days.

On another occasion we had driven in the Ferrari to do some business at the Montgomery County court house in Mt Sterling.  It was a rainy and slightly cold day.  Anybody with any sense at all had their headlights on, and we did.  Driving with Dad in the Ferrari was sort of like being in competition regardless of the conditions, and I think he rather liked to play sliding games in the rain.  We were passing cars on east bound US 60 like they were standing still, one after another.  Most of the time when I was Dad’s passenger, I was just smiling ear to ear the whole time.  This was no exception.  But this time Dad did make one small error in judgment as we were making what would have been a smooth pass.  In the middle of a pass with the power full on, there suddenly appeared in the opposite lane a car.  It had not been as visible, as the driver had failed to turn on his lights.  There were two things we could do in that short span of time – we could either hit him head on, or take intelligent evasive action.  As usual, Dad took intelligent action.  He slowed the car down tremendously with the brakes and looked for an available entrance into the ditch to our left, which we found at just the moment the approaching car passed by us in the opposite direction.  It happened so fast that I doubt if the other driver even had the time to brake.   I think the car may have been slowed to maybe 40 mph when we entered the rather broad but deep ditch.  It then took several hundred feet for us to slow to a stop.

We came to a stop well down in a rather deep and only slightly muddy ditch, as most of the surface of the ditch had grass in it.   Dad was only a little bothered by his mistake, but I think my heart was beating a little faster than normal.  It was a great save by a good driver.  The guy who was coming the other way showed up in a few minutes later, white as a ghost, as he was almost sure that we had rolled the car or been badly injured.  I was impressed at the truly quick and intelligent thinking on Dad’s part.  The other driver I think didn’t even realize we had been going pretty fast, and he was extremely apologetic about not having his lights on.  The other driver I think got a wrecker out to us and that put us back on the road.  I think there was a piece of trim that  got pulled off, and a minor dent in one rocker panel, and a whole lot of mud under the car, but we drove home otherwise unscathed.  I know this to have happened in 1965, because I remember the car so well, and it was in 1966 that Dad moved on to a different model of Ferrari.

When we got home, Dad never said a word about what happened. I think he was a little pissed at me when I blabbered about it to Mom.

More Vehicle Stories – Work Vehicles

Telling this story brings back memories of the other vehicles we used on the job.  Dad’s primary work vehicle was a 1964 VW Kombi, known to many as a VW bus.  The Kombi, though a bit underpowered for highway use, and being only 2 wheel drive was every bit as nimble as were the 4 wheel drive vehicles which the crews were also using.  There was  red  1960 Ford 4×4 pickup which was jacked high in the air for ground clearance.  It looked strange and unconventional at that time, because absolutely nobody put lift kits in their trucks back then.  That fad didn’t start until 30 years later.  And there was a 1947 Willys Jeep.  It was okay, but still no more nimble off road than was the VW Kombi.  They also had a 1952 Willys which was only 2 wd.  Perhaps there were some other work trucks but I cannot recall what they were.

The VW was great because it was relatively water tight.  The road systems of the time in that region rarely included bridges, unless the road was paved.  In that era, a large number of KY state highways were still gravel.  County roads were less maintained and usually had gravel on them.  Township maintained roads were often just dirt paths with little or no gravel on them.

Anyway, there was one particular farm that Dad had to survey that was owned by a family named Donahue.  I don’t remember their first names, and there were Donahue families all over the place in that valley.  It seems that different families spelled the name differently.  Maybe it was because nobody really could read or write well and they were all intermaqrried, or maybe it was because they were reall from different families, or maybe some of both.  There was Donnahoo, Donahue, Donahew, etc. on various mailboxes.  Anyway to get to these Donahues house you had to ford the river.  When the water was up at all, there was a troublesome deep spot near the bank closest to their house.  I know that Dad’s favorite vehicle for crossing there was the Kombi, because the  motor just never got wet, as long as you didn’t stay in the water too long.  On more than one occasion the wheel stopped touching the bottom of the river for a few seconds, and the Kombi was floating across propelled only by momentum and spinning five wheels.

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